Archive for February 2012

Monthly Archive

School Shootings

I had the third post in my “Parenting Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Teens” series all ready… and then I checked the news. Right now, my mind is with the parents and students of Chardon High School in Ohio.

School shootings embody many of our worst nightmares. The deaths of innocent children. Violence and murder in a place we consider safe. And when the shooter is a student, we have the specter of someone who is not yet an adult, with enough pain and rage to kill his or her peers. The randomness of it is terrifying, as is the thought, Could that happen to my kid?

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Kids and guns

This week in Washington state, a young boy brought a gun to elementary school and an 8 year old girl was shot. The reports say the gun was in his backpack when it went off, but to me this brings up the controversial question: Should we ask about guns at home? Why did the 9 year old feel the need to bring a gun to school? But an even bigger question is where did he get the gun from? In Washington, nearly all pediatricians routinely ask if there is a gun in the home during well child exams. This question is not to judge a family, but merely to bring up the idea of safety. Washington state actually has very loose gun laws and locks are not legally required. As kids grow into teens, we pediatricians often omit this question on guns for ones on sex and drugs. Should we keep asking about gun safety? Read full post »

Parenting Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Teens, Part 2: Telling Others

So your teen came out to you, and you have reacted to their news. Now what do you do? Do you mention it if they don’t bring it up again? Do you encourage them to come out to other family and friends? Do you talk about it at the dinner table?

This will all depend on your teen and their comfort level, but it’s a good idea to get an idea of who they plan to communicate this to. This can range from keeping it a secret between the two of you for a while, to their posting their new sexual orientation on Facebook for friends and family to see.They may have already told close friends or other family; don’t feel disappointed if they didn’t come to you first. If they waited a bit, this may simply mean that your reaction is very important to them, and they wanted to see how others reacted first.

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Difficult Grandparents (and other family members)

As the parent of a teenager, life is full of ups and downs. To say this is a great undertaking may be an understatement! At times your teen may make you the proudest parent on Earth. At other times, they are testing boundaries and actively challenging the rules.  You may also have extended family members in your life. Those family members can be a huge source of support. You may rely on them for help with transportation to school events, doctor’s appointments, and to help out so you can go on date nights with your spouse.  Those same family members may give advice you disagree with or try to tell you how to raise your teen.

I was recently talking with a friend about her in-laws. She shared with me that they are constantly criticizing her parenting techniques and telling her everything she needs to improve. I’ve had parents of my patients tell me that their own siblings (teen’s aunt or uncle) have told them they shouldn’t stop buying fast food, or that there’s no need to avoid eating an entire birthday cake.

So what can be done? Read full post »

Parenting Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Teens, Part 1: Finding Out

If your teen came out to you, congratulate yourself. Your teen trusts and values you enough to tell you that their sexual orientation is different from many of their peers. Your teen talking to you openly about this speaks wonders for your relationship with them. You may not have been the first person they told, but that’s normal; a lot of teens “practice” coming out with peers before talking to their family members.

Perhaps your teen was “outed” to you, and you think they are gay, lesbian, or bisexual because of other information you have. Now is time to have a heart-to-heart talk. Nobody should tell you about your teen’s sexual orientation except your teen.

Sometimes the news comes as a shock, sometimes parents are unsurprised. But even parents who have no qualms at the idea of having a gay child usually have some feelings to work through. You may feel fine with their sexual orientation, but what about the rest of the world? What are they opening themselves up to? Will they be bullied at school? Will they be the victim of harrassment and discrimination in their adult life? Will they have children? Does this close doors in terms of careers, travel, or other life choices? Read full post »

How to Get Your Teen to Lose Weight, Part 6: Practical Suggestions and a Wrap-Up

So we’ve gone through a bunch of ideas and thoughts for helping your teen lose weight. You may have noticed I’ve spent a lot of time discussing emotional health and self-esteem! Losing weight is a long, involved process that involves an investment in one’s health and well-being… which calls for self-confidence and self-respect. But there are more tangible suggestions for teens to lose weight and gain health.

It is normal to want a quick fix. Unfortunately, there isn’t one. Or at least, there isn’t a safe one. Losing weight is slow, and hard, and requires a reframing of habits and environment. As humans, we respond better to  a “do” than a “don’t,” which is why focusing on exercise and increasing healthy habits works much better than trying not to do what we are used to.

Losing weight is not just a matter of willpower. There is a wealth of research on this. Our brains are not built in a manner that allows us to simply “flex” our willpower and steadily lose weight over a long time. This is why it is so difficult!

Here are a few more suggestions I didn’t fit into the last 5 posts. Remember to check in with your primary care provider for other ideas and suggestions!

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Teens, multitasking, and technology

Teens in 2012 are as comfortable with technologies, like smart phones, iPads, MP3 players, and computers as my generation was with CD’s, telephones (land lines!), and DVD players. It is amazing to watch children as young as 2 be able to turn on and program a video on their parent’s smart phone. Is this dexterity with technology helpful or harmful? Read full post »

Teens at Risk: sex industry

I recently watched the documentary Very Young Girls. It has prompted to me to want to bring to light a topic that we, as a society, often ignore: the sexual exploitation of young teenage girls. The movie focused on the lives of teens who had been seduced, and even kidnapped, into the lifestyle of prostitution. The message that was driven home by this amazing and disturbing movie was that the people who were selling their bodies were the victims, not criminals.

The average age of a person who starts working in the sex industry is 13-14 years old. Yes, 13 or 14. Still in middle school, naive, and very much a child. Girls (and boys) who end up in this work often come from homes where they were abused or neglected. A pimp who approaches them may start by telling how beautiful they are and how they can provide them with a family and love. The pimp looks for lack of eye contact and other signs that the child may not feel loved and supported (a well supported teen may look them in the eye and say ‘thank you’ or tell them to get lost). For the 13 year old child who hears this message, they may eagerly get into a car with the man offering hope. Those positive compliments are quickly distorted into manipulation. The pimp offers ‘love,’ then says ‘if you love me, you’ll help me make money.’ Read full post »